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How did Miami handle suspected cases of the coronavirus?

Dean of Students discusses plans, addresses xenophobia

A week before students returned to campus, Miami University’s Institutional Response Team began to formulate plans with the Butler County Health District and Ohio Department of Health in case of a possible outbreak of the coronavirus.

Miami has plans for a number of different worst-case scenarios. Pandemics? Active shooter drills? Global viruses? Check, check, check.

So when two students walked into Student Health Services on Monday, Jan. 27 experiencing symptoms of the coronavirus, the university responded swiftly.

“My job is to make sure when an unexpected circumstance happens the students have support,” Dean of Student Kimberly Moore said.

Moore, a member of Miami’s Institutional Response Team, considers herself an advocate for students above all else, and helped coordinate with Butler County and the state health department to provide daily communication to the two isolated students: phone calls, emails and visits to drop off any needed items.

Miami’s Dining Services delivered meals to the two students and a primary contact from the university — specifically from the Dean of Students’ office — regularly visited the students along with a representative from the Butler County Health District.

Moore explained that Miami works lock step with the Ohio Department of Health and Butler County Health District who take their guidance from the CDC. The university works with these organizations to gain information about potential dangers and formulate action plans.

Jennifer Bailer, the health commissioner for Butler County Health District, spoke during a press conference on Sunday and confirmed the university, county and state were prepared.

“A system was put in place a few weeks ago as the coronavirus ramped up in China, and we knew that travelers would be returning here,” Bailer said.

And if the test results had come back positive?

“We were ready,” Moore said. “We had plans. We were ready for this particular virus if it came back positive.” 

But the dean of students was unable to share details of the university’s plan, she said, because the next time there is a potential outbreak of disease these plans will change.

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“We can’t have something in black and white that holds us accountable to a plan that was designed in the context of this circumstance,” Moore said. “We have to have room for us to be able to respond accordingly to the facts of any particular incident.”

Moore stressed the university followed the guidelines given to them from the county, state and CDC to allow for the best practices.

The university also condemned racist behavior on campus.

University President Greg Crawford addressed concerns during Sunday’s press conference, explaining that in Miami’s communications to the community he asked for compassion and empathy.

“At a time like this, when you’re facing challenges, the best comes out in people,” Crawford said. “All around this campus, I really saw love and honor showing through in these challenging times.” 

But there have been several instances of racism targeted toward Chinese students at Miami on social media in the past week, including in the Miami University Parents and Family Members private Facebook group. 

Moore spoke to parents whose worried calls to the Dean of Students’ office about the virus bordered on xenophobic remarks.

“Fear is a dangerous thing,” she said. “If we remember the humanity in each other and use empathy and apply empathy then we are less likely to have fear get the best of our actions.”

There was one coronavirus-related incident, involving a student, directly reported to Moore’s office, but the number of bias incident reports has not spiked in the past week.

Moore urged students to set an example for the rest of the university and community and to lead by example.

“If you value inclusion, live it.”